In Pursuit of Eliza Cynster

The 17th Cynster Novel
The Second Volume in the Cynster Sisters Trilogy
In Paperback & E-book from Avon Books
ISBN: 978-0-06-206861-3
Release Date: September 2011

Three heros, three rescues, three weddings.

The pleasure of your company is requested
at the wedding of Miss Eliza Cynster

...but not until she's rescued from a daring abduction by the most unexpected of heros!

Brazenly kidnapped from her sister Heather's engagement ball, Eliza Cynster is spirited north to Edinburgh. Desperate and determined to escape, she seizes upon the first possible champion who happens along - gentleman scholar Jeremy Carling.

Villains and rescues are a far cry from Jeremy's expertise, yet he cannot abandon a damsel in distress. But danger lurks and hurdles abound in their race to escape the mysterious laird, until a final confrontation on a windswept cliff reveals what their future life could hold - if both are bold enough to seize and own the unexpected love they now share.

A New York Times, USA-Today & Publishers Weekly Bestseller!

" Cynsters rule and readers triumph." Library Journal.

"An action-packed read, a steamy hot and adventurous historical romance, filled with mystery, romance, engaging characters, a cross-country romp, clever dialogue, an intriguing plot, kidnapping, plot twists and tender not miss this intriguing book."

St. Ives House, Grosvenor Square, London

"It's just not fair." Elizabeth Marguerite Cynster, Eliza to all, grumbled the complaint beneath her breath as she stood alone, cloaked in the shadows of a massive potted palm by the wall of her eldest cousin's ballroom. Tonight, the magnificent ducal ballroom was glittering and glowing, playing host to the crème de la crème of the ton, bedecked in their finest satins and silks, bejeweled and beringed, all swept up in a near-rapturous outpouring of happiness and unbridled delight.

As there were few among the ton likely to decline an invitation to waltz at an event hosted by Honoria, Duchess of St. Ives, and her powerful husband, Devil Cynster, the huge room was packed.

The light from the sparkling chandeliers sheened over elaborately coiffed curls and winked and blinked from the hearts of countless diamonds. Gowns in a range of brilliant hues swirled as the ladies danced, creating a shifting sea of vibrant plumage contrasting with the regulation black-and-white of their partners. Laughter and conversation blanketed the scene. A riot of perfumes filled the air. In the background a small orchestra strove to deliver one of the most popular waltzes.

Eliza watched as her elder sister, Heather, circled the dance floor in the arms of her handsome husband-to-be, ex-foremost rake of the ton, Timothy Danvers, Viscount Breckenridge. Even if the ball had not been thrown expressly to celebrate their betrothal, to formally announce it to the ton and the polite world, the besotted look in Breckenridge's eyes every time his gaze rested on Heather was more than enough to tell the tale. The ex-darling of the ton's ladies was now Heather's sworn protector and slave.

And Heather was his. The joy in her face, that lit her eyes, declared that to the world.

Despite her own less than happy state, much of it a direct outcome of the events leading to Heather's engagement, Eliza was sincerely, to her soul, happy for her sister.

They'd both spent years-literally years-searching for their respective heroes among the ton, through the drawing rooms and ballrooms in which young ladies such as they were expected to confine themselves in hunting for suitable, eligible partis. Yet neither Heather, Eliza, nor Angelica, their younger sister, had had any luck in locating the gentlemen fated to be their heroes. They had, logically, concluded that said heroes, the gentlemen for them, were not to be found within their proscribed orbit, so they had, also logically, decided to extend their search into those areas where the more elusive, yet still suitable and eligible, male members of the ton congregated.

That strategy had worked for their eldest female cousin Amanda, and, employed with a different twist, for her twin sister Amelia, as well.

And, albeit in a most unexpected way, the same approach had worked for Heather, too.

Clearly for Cynster females, success in finding their own true hero lay in boldly stepping beyond their accustomed circles.

Which was precisely what Eliza was set on doing except that, through the adventure that had befallen Heather within minutes of her taking her first step into that racier world - namely being kidnapped, rescued by Breckenridge, and then escaping in his company - a plot to target "the Cynster sisters" had been exposed.

Whether the targets were limited to Heather, Eliza, and Angelica, or included their younger cousins, Henrietta and Mary, no one knew.

No one understood the motive behind the threat, not even what was eventually intended beyond being kidnapped and possibly taken to Scotland. As for who was behind it, no one had any real clue, but the upshot was that Eliza and the other three "Cynster sisters" as yet unbetrothed had been placed under constant guard. She hadn't been able to set toe outside her parents' house without one of her brothers, or if not them, one of her cousins - every bit as bad - appearing at her elbow.

And looming.

For her, taking even half a step outside the restrictive circles of the upper echelons of the ton was now impossible. If she tried, a large, male, brotherly or cousinly hand would close about her elbow and yank her unceremoniously back.

Such behavior on their part was, she had to admit, understandable, but… "For how long?" Their protective cordon had been in place for three weeks, and showed no signs of relaxing. "I'm already twenty-four. If I don't find my hero this year, next year I'll be on the shelf."

Muttering to herself wasn't a habit, but the evening was drawing to a close and, as usual at such ton events, nothing had come of it for her. Which was why she was hugging the wall in the screening shadows of the huge palm; she was worn out with smiling and pretending she had any interest whatever in the very proper young gentlemen who, through the night, had vied for her attention.

As a well-dowered, well-bred, well-brought up Cynster young lady she'd never been short of would-be Romeos. Sadly, she'd never felt the slightest inclination to play Juliet to any of them. Like Angelica, Eliza was convinced she would recognize her hero, if not in the instant she laid eyes on him-Angelica's theory-then at least once she'd spent a few hours in his company.

Heather, in contrast, had always been uncertain over recognizing her hero-but then she'd known Breckenridge, not well but more than by sight, for many years, and until their adventure she hadn't realized he was the one for her. Heather had mentioned that their cousin-by-marriage, Catriona, who, being an earthly representative of the deity known in parts of Scotland as "The Lady," tended to "know" things, had suggested that Heather needed to "see" her hero clearly, which had proved very much to be the case.

Catriona had given Heather a necklace and pendant designed to assist a young lady in finding her true love-her hero; Catriona had said the necklace was supposed to be passed from Heather, to Eliza, to Angelica, then to Henrietta and Mary, before ultimately returning to Scotland, to Catriona's daughter, Lucilla.

Raising one hand, Eliza touched the fine chain interspersed with small amethyst beads that circled her neck; the rose quartz pendant depending from it was hidden in the valley between her breasts. The chain lay concealed beneath the delicate lace of the fashionable fichu and collar that filled the scooped neckline of her gold silk gown.

The chain was now hers, so where was the hero it was supposed to help her recognize?

Obviously not here. No gentleman with hero-potential had miraculously appeared. Not that she had expected one to, not here in the very heart of the upper echelons of tonnish society. Nevertheless, disappointment and dragging dejection bloomed.

Through finding her hero, Heather had - entirely unintentionally, but nevertheless effectively - stymied Eliza. Her hero did not exist within tonnish circles, but she could no longer step outside to hunt him down.

"What the devil am I to do?"

A footman drifting around the outskirts of the ballroom with a silver salver balanced on one hand heard her and turned to peer into the shadows. Eliza barely glanced at him, but seeing her, his features relaxed and he stepped forward.

"Miss Eliza." Relief in his voice, the footman bowed and offered the salver. "A gentleman asked that this be delivered to you, miss. A good half hour ago, it must be now. We couldn't find you in the crowd."

Wondering which tedious gentleman was now sending her notes, Eliza reached for the folded parchment resting on the salver. "Thank you, Cameron." The footman was from her parents' household, seconded to the St. Ives' household to assist with the massive ball. "Who was it, do you know?"

"No, miss. It wasn't handed to me, but to one of the others. They passed it on."

"Thank you." Eliza nodded a dismissal.

With a brief bow, Cameron withdrew.

With no great expectations, Eliza unfolded the note. The writing was bold, a series of brash black strokes on the white paper.

Very masculine in style.

Tipping the sheet to catch the light, Eliza read:

Meet me in the back parlor, if you dare. No, we're not acquainted. I haven't signed this note because my name will mean nothing to you. We haven't been introduced, and there is no grande dame present who would be likely to oblige me. However, the fact I am here, attending this ball, speaks well enough to my antecedents and my social standing. And I know where the back parlor is.

I believe it is time we met face to face, if nothing else to discover if there is any further degree of association we might feel inclined to broach.

As I started this note, so I will end it: Meet me in the back parlor, if you dare.

I'll be waiting.

Eliza couldn't help but smile. How…impertinent. How daring. To send her such a note in her cousin's house, under the very noses of the grandes dames and all her family.

Yet whoever he was, he was patently there, in the house, and if he knew where the back parlor was…

She read the note again, debating, but there was no reason she could see why she shouldn't slip away to the back parlor and discover who it was who had dared send such a note.

Stepping out from her hiding place, she slipped swiftly, as unobtrusively as she could, around the still crowded room. She felt certain the note-writer was correct - she didn't know him; they'd never met. She didn't know any gentleman who would have thought to send such an outrageous summons to a private tryst inside St. Ives House.

Excitement, anticipation, surged. Perhaps this was it - the moment when her hero would appear before her.

Stepping through a minor door, she walked quickly down a corridor, then turned down another, then another, increasingly dimly lit, steadily making her way to the rear corner of the huge mansion. Deep in the private areas, distant from the reception rooms and their noise, the back parlor gave onto the gardens at the rear of the house; Honoria often sat there of an afternoon, watching her children play on the lawn below the terrace.

Eliza finally reached the end of the last corridor. The parlor door stood before her. She didn't hesitate; turning the knob, she opened the door and walked in.

The lamps weren't lit, but moonlight poured through the windows and glass doors that gave onto the terrace. Glancing around and seeing no one, she closed the door and walked deeper into the room. Perhaps he was waiting in one of the armchairs facing the windows.

Nearing the chairs, she saw they were empty. She halted. Frowned. Had he given up and left? "Hello?" She started to turn. "Is there anyone -"

A faint rush of sound came from behind her.

She whirled - too late.

A hard arm snaked about her waist and jerked her back against a solid male body.

She opened her mouth -

A huge palm swooped and slapped a white cloth over her mouth and nose. And held it there.

She struggled, breathed in - the smell was sickly sweet, cloying…

Her muscles went to water.

Even as she sagged, she fought to turn her head, but the heavy palm followed, keeping the horrid cloth over her mouth and nose…

Until reality slid away and darkness engulfed her.

In Pursuit of Eliza Cynster Interview

27th September, 2011

Eliza is a subtly different sort of heroine to your usual type. Why is this?

Put simply, Eliza is the middle sister. Any middle sibling has different character traits to either the oldest or the youngest. So Eliza emerged as the sister who was less inclined to outdoor pursuits - who in her own words, enjoys embroidering! She plays the pianoforte and the harp and sings like an angel. She's quieter, but neither shy nor truly reserved. At the start of the story, in her eyes, and that of society, she is the quiet, softer, gentler sister-and she believes she's less adventurous, and, even if she never puts it into words, she believes she's somehow less capable than Heather or Angelica. What happens during the story challenges, tests, and ultimately rescripts that view. The physical journey of her kidnapping, rescue, and escape to safety parallels a personal journey of self-discovery as she is lifted out of her comfortable world and placed into another, more difficult and dangerous world, and faced with hurdle after hurdle which, together with the hero, she must overcome. More than any other heroine of mine, Eliza is a heroine who transforms. And love - falling in love, learning how to deal with that and fighting to hold onto it - plays a big part in her end result.

Jeremy is also a new play on the old archetype - what were the reasons for him being so?

Jeremy is a character I established long ago (The Lady Chosen) and have had simmering on my back burner ever since. I needed the right heroine, and the right sort of plot, to bring him to the boil, so to speak - to fully realize him as a hero. I had to have the right challenge. We first met him as a scholar; he is now a world-renown expert on hieroglyphics. His identity is firmly established as "scholar," not just in his mind but in that of all others. He is comfortable and his life appears full and rewarding, except...his emotional future looks empty and potentially bleak. At the start of the story, he has accepted that all is not perfect in his world, that he wants wife and family, as all those around him - warriors though they may be - have. But of course, being a scholar, his view of the wife he needs is of someone quiet, mild, and capable. But the thought has barely occurred when he is distracted by having to rescue Eliza. Only he can, and he accepts that he must. What Jeremy discovers through the chase, rescue, and escape, is that he is not just a scholar, but that he, too, possesses a "warrior" side. His interaction with Eliza evokes this warrior side, and through pursuing a relationship with her, he merges and embeds this until now dormant side of his personality into who he becomes. He, too, changes through the story, although in his case, it's more in the way of adding and integrating the missing piece of himself into his whole. And because he is not solely a "warrior" but a "scholar-warrior" and therefore potentially something more, this changes how he, at the end, approaches the question of acknowledging love - what he does is very definitely a new twist on the old archetype!

Were there any special challenges in plotting this book?

In writing the second work in a trilogy, there's always a balance to be struck between what can be revealed and what must be withheld for the third book. Book 1 is usually easy, because you have so much to set up and can race into the story. Book 3 - well, in this case, I knew most of what happens in the last book before I started writing the first. But Book 2 is often the hardest to pull off - in this case, I was very grateful I had two such strong and fascinating characters as hero and heroine to claim center stage…and in the background our mysterious laird and his motives are being more and more revealed. However, in this trilogy, there was an additional challenge - both book 1 and book 2 had to involve abduction, chase, rescue, and escape - in other words, a journey. In the first book, the "journey" was pretty evenly divided between chase, rescue and escape, and the escape wasn't under serious and immediate threat. In this second book, it needed to have a different feel - so book 2's journey is quick on abduction and chase, has more rescue, but is mostly about the escape - and that escape is under serious and constant threat. So book 1 and book 2, although moving through similar plot sequences, "read" very differently - the experience the reader gets from each book will be different and unique.

Most of the action in the trilogy occurs in Scotland, but each book thus far goes to different places - what led you to use the regions you do in the first two books?

The choice of routes for the kidnappers was largely dictated by what the laird, in the circumstances, would specify. In book 1, there was no reason not to go up the Great North Road at a pace that wouldn't attract attention. However, the laird wanted the kidnappers to bring Heather to Gretna Green - yes, there was a purpose behind Heather's kidnappers taking her there, and we'll learn what it was early in Book 3. Once Breckenridge rescued her, it was obvious that they would head to Richard and Catriona in the Vale of Casphairn as that was the closest place of safety. However, with Eliza's kidnapping, the laird would obviously specify a different route to avoid the Cynsters, and that landed Eliza in Edinburgh - a wonderfully romantic city - from where Jeremy rescues her. He and she then face the question how best to get south to Wolverstone Castle - their closest safe place - while avoiding the kidnappers and the laird, who come after them. The answer to that took us on a journey through the Scottish lowlands, an area I hadn't visited, either in real life or story life, previously. It was fascinating learning about the towns, hills, rivers and valleys. But to return to your question, in the first two books in this trilogy, the story itself - primarily the laird's motivations, and then how the girls and their rescuers respond - is what determined the regions through, and the routes by which, the characters travel.

Continuing the question above, where in Scotland will the third volume in the trilogy take us??

Aha - into the highlands! The majority of Book 3 is set on the laird's highland estate, his clan lands. As he terms it, glen, loch and castle - and we've already had a small glimpse of the castle in the Prologue of book 1.

Once again in this book we see a hero we've met before, in this instance when he was considerably younger, and in a book, The Lady Chosen, which was published a long time ago. Is it difficult to go back and pick up a character who you originally wrote a long time ago?

Not if he's been set up in the original book correctly. As mentioned above, Jeremy was, from the first, clearly a hero in waiting, with definite potential, but the question was how to develop it. The essential elements were there. I've done this - gone back to an earlier secondary character and developed him into a hero - a few times (Dillon Caxton - A Rogue's Proposal originally, and What Price Love? for his own story; Gerrard Debbington - A Rake's Vow and The Truth about Love; Charlie Morwellan - A Secret Love and The Taste of Innocence), and it's always a special challenge, but also very rewarding to see characters blossom from adolescence into full blown adulthood. I have a much deeper sense of their history, and I think that shows in the depth of the character in their own book. I think readers respond to this sort of storytelling, with characters the readers see as they mature - I know I enjoy writing such stories.

In the latter sections of this book, we revisit Wolverstone Castle, and a number of scenes take place there. Is it difficult to go back into an imaginary building and keep the internal structure and layout of the rooms consistent with what you've described before?

I have a very accurate visual memory (against that, I'm hopeless with anything people tell me). If I've read it, or seen it, I'll remember, and I have a very good memory for buildings and places, and roads, for instance. So for me to return in my mind to a place I've been before isn't hard. It almost as if I call up a video of the place in my mind, and I can walk through it, see the same tapestries on the walls, the same fireplace, the same stairs with their same carpet. I don't forget the spaces, or how they interconnect - how you get to the library from Minerva's sitting room, where the door to the battlements is - and I remember the furnishings and the atmosphere of rooms as well. Very useful in this profession!

The villains of this story seem to be evolving and changing - was this deliberate plotting, or did it come about as you wrote each story?

The notion of a villain who wasn't a villain - namely an honorable man forced by circumstance to act in a villainous way - was a key feature of the trilogy from its inception. The story of the laird and what he's up to and why provides the backbone of the trilogy, and culminates in the third book, when we learn all the answers. So that's one level of villain, but in addition there's the laird's hired henchmen in each book, who are villains in the customary sense. And there, too, we have progression as we move from book1 to book 2 - from Fletcher, Cobbins, and Martha in book 1 to the distinctly more dangerous Scrope, Taylor, and Genevieve in book 2. As for the laird, at the end of book 2 we are left with more questions than answers - which is what book 3 is all about.

This is the second and middle book in the trilogy. In terms of style, what can we look forward to in the third volume?

A rollicking adventure. Book 3 is the volume I've dubbed: Elizabeth Bennett rescues Errol Flynn in the Scottish highlands. Book 3 is Angelica's story, and as a heroine she is shaping up to be quite a handful, and as for her hero, he is so over the top, so very much larger than life; put the two together and the sparks will fly - which will be immense fun for us all. The six original Cynster cousins play cameo parts, and Lady Osbaldestone and Aunt Clara play small but crucial roles. I have a feeling Book 3 might well be the most humorous book I've ever written - there's certainly a lot of scope for repartee - but in terms of overall style and atmosphere, it will continue the trilogy theme of the high adventure, drama, and passion of the first 2 books, culminating in a romantic grand finale of epic proportions. Book 3 is definitely a case of "live large."

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